Saturday, March 20, 2010

Chez Chegrouni - Marrakech

First day in Marrakech we ended up at Restaurant Chez Chegrouni, by the Djemaa el Fna. It was a recommended choice in our guidebook described as a place with good food at low prices. We agree!

Location: BBBBB-

It is difficult to find a place with a better location in Marrakech. Located by the city's main square you are right where everything happens. Here you can eat as you can follow what goes on.

Restaurant Chez Chegrouni is within walking distance of all the sights of the Medina.

Service: BBB+

If you look for a place with personalized service, Restaurant Chez Chegrouni is definitely not the place for you. Orders were taken and food served with not as much as a grin. We did not have to wait long to get food on the table.

Interior & Atmosphere: BBB

Restaurant Chez Chegrouni had an interior as a cross between a French bistro and a traditional Moroccan tavern.

Outside you were seated on a terrace with tables along side the railing with a direct view to the square, or by the the inner wall of the terrace. The inside of the restaurant was decorated with colourful Moroccan tiles.

The tables and benches were in dark wood, and quite dirty, we discovered. The waiter cleaned it up before we were served, but I had a suspicion that hygiene was not sufficiently taken care of.

I also found the seating uncomfortable as there was little room between the tables, as the terrace was filled up to capacity with people.

Food: BBBB

The food was decent and very inexpensive. Chez Chegrouni is definitely worth a visit for those of you traveling on a budget.

I ordered a harira soup and a couscous with chicken.

We got a basket with delicious , freshly baked bread before the meal.

Moroccan Harira soup

The harira soup is a traditional Moroccan soup usually served during Ramadan or at special occations as e.g. weddings.

The harira was a brightly coloured soup from tomatoes and saffron, often used in this traditional dish.

It was a great dish with many complex aromas. Our harira was a tomato based soup with sweet and slightly bitter contrasting flavours provided by a wide range of spices, with additional heat from ground chili, most probably harissa paste. There were vegetables, a little meat and beaten eggs had been added to the soup.

We had harira three times, and the one found at Chez Chegrouni was the best of the three.

Couscous with chicken

Couscous are one out of two main groups of food to order when visiting Morocco. Couscous are small granules made by rolling and shaping moistened semolina wheat and then coating them with finely ground wheat flour.

Couscous is served with lamb, chicken, or vegetables. The couscous dishes are often mild, and very suitable for those of you that do not like strongly spiced foods.

I was served a heap of couscous with half a chicken and boiled vegetables on a brightly coloured traditional plate.

The skin of the chicken had been rubbed with traditional spices and possibly preserved lemon. Except from this, our couscous with simply flavoured by home made broth.

It was a filling dish, chicken extremely tender, vegetables a little over cooked (a way to prepare vegetables my mother would have approved of). The couscous was deliciously tender. The chicken couscous at Chez Chegrouni was absolutely worth its price.

Beverage: N/A

I would have loved a cold beer to my chicken, but as we were in a Muslim country, there were only soft drinks available. I chose regular mineral water, not a bad choice on a hot North African winter's day.

Rating the Restaurant Chez Chegrouni experience: BBBB (3,85 points)

Excellent location and inexpensive, honest food at Restaurant Chez Chegrouni. The place was however filled to capacity, and it felt a little cramped on the terrace. Dirty on the outside tables.

Location of Chez Chegrouni see this map

Vis Marrakech A-Z 2010 i et større kart

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mariakyrkan - Sigtuna

Sigtuna is the oldest city in Sweden, with a history spanning more than 1000 years. There were many churches in the city, and all except one, are no in ruins. The only church still standing is dedicated to Virgin Mary.

The Church is a basilica in red brick built by Dominican friars in 1230-1255, partly in Romanesque, partly in Gothic style.

In 1255 the local archbishop - earls were buried in the choir, and their burial niches are still visible today.

The convent connected to the church was torn down after the reformation. Bricks were used in castles in nearby Venngarn and Svartsjö.

In 1641 the church was in such a bad condition that the Swedish government demanded that the community to renovate it, thus saving it from the fate shared by all the other churches in this old Medieval city.

It has been extended and changed during the centuries, but it has retained its Medieval character. It is dark and mysterious.

The interior is beautifully decorated with elaborate paintings that were found during large restoration works 1904-1905.

On the walls you find painted Crusader crosses, as well as ornate floral patterns. On one wall you see a depiction of Christ on the cross with his mother and disciples.

More on Sigtuna

Sigtuna - the city by the water - read story here

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A culinary shopping bag

This weekend my sister is traveling to Copenhagen, without me! We've had a tradition these last years, that is to have at least one trip to Copenhagen during spring. When in Copenhagen, I love to do some serious food shopping.

When traveling on the DFDS ferries between Oslo and Copenhagen you have access to both freezer, as well as cold rooms to store both frozen and fresh products.

Where to go and what to buy

As Denmark is connected to the common market, and Norway's not, you find a wide selection of international food at very reasonable prices in Copenhagen.

I used to do my shopping in the food hall at Magazin du Nord, at Kongens Nytorv. Then I discovered Irma, the delicatessen located in the basement of of Illums, the second large department store in downtown Copenhagen.

The prices are much lower at Irma, as this shop belongs to a large chain of low-price food stores. Now I always end up there when traveling to Copenhagen.

My culinary grocery bag - April 2009

Succulent and tender berberi duck breast

Berberi refers to the Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata).

Duck breast has become a favourite among many amateur cooks. Easy to prepare, and extremely tender, but very expensive here in Norway.

So if you buy 4 breasts In Denmark priced at 139 DKK (€18,70) per kilo, compared to what you have to pay in Norway NOK 399 (€49,80), this is a meat worth buying when going grocery shopping in Copenhagen.

Duck breasts are so wonderfully easy to prepare, and have an extremely tender and succulent meat.

Here is my way to prepare a perfect duck breast.
Berberi duck thighs

Duck thighs are equally delicious when prepared correctly. Whereas a breast is prepared in the pan and served pink in the middle, a thigh needs to bake in the oven for a long time at a low temperature.

Back in April 2009 you could buy duck thighs at 25% of the price you would have to pay in Norway. I bought 4 fresh French berberi duck thighs to be placed in the freezer and prepared later.

What did I make from them? Here are a few dishes made from the duck thighs from Illum.

Most countries have a domestic production of cured and smoked meats, including Norway. Few, however, make this products with success commercially. One of them is Italy.

As we are excluded from the European food market, imported cured meats are heavily taxed to protect the Norwegian domestic production, that sadly is inferior to high quality European products.

So products as this Bresaola is well worth buying for us Norwegians when traveling into the European market.

Parmacotto is a Parma based firm producing boiled ham, mortadella, fresh and cured meats.

See company website here

Bresaola is air dried salted beef left to cure for at least 2-3 months. It is seasoned with salt and spices as juniper berries, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Delicious served on a freshly baked, still warm focaccia and pesto. Yum!!!

Kelda soups

These soups are hardly worth buying from an economic point of view. They are relatively cheap, but I buy them for their taste, as Kelda soups are probably of the bests I have ever tasted.

The spicy Thai soup is surprisingly pungent, and have that fresh citrus character derived from lemon grass and lime leaves. The chicken Carib soup is equally tasty.

Recommended for those of you traveling to Copenhagen.